How do you interpret the “hunter’s code” when someone takes you to a good spot on public land? When can you go back to that place on your own?

My friend Carl, a man of the cloth and hunter of high character who now lives in Canada, sent me this picture from a float hunt. He wrote: “I might try again Monday with my kayak by myself. I finally got the green light to go without the guy who took me today. The hunter’s code kept me from ever going back on my own all last year because I was a guest, even though it is a public spot. It’s paid off now :).”

In other words: last year, a friend of Carl’s showed him this publically accessible stretch of river. Despite knowing it was full of ducks, Carl waited all last season and most of this season before asking his friend if it was okay to hunt the place on his own.

What would you do? It’s a gray area, for sure. Someone takes you hunting on public land. Can you go back? Do you have to ask their permission? It is public land, after all, and you have as much right to be there as anyone. On the other hand, someone else did the legwork and found the spot.

I don’t always ask permission as Carl did, but I will wait what I believe to be a respectful amount of time before I go to a place someone has taken me. How soon I go back depends on a few factors: if the place is a spot everyone hunts that I just haven’t been to before, then I feel like I can go back right away. If it’s not well known, then I won’t go back anytime soon. It’s more important, in my view, to keep a hunting partner than it is to gain a hunting spot.

How soon I return also depends on how well I know the person who took me. A casual acquaintance with whom I no longer hunt took me to a great public woodcock spot several years ago. I still haven’t been back. The peak woodcock migration here lasts only a few days, so chances of running into him in the covert are good. Although I feel I’ve waited more than long enough, it would still be awkward to see him there.